SWEETIES The six initial “Erotic Tales” that made the fest rounds last year were hardly scintillating enough to warrant an encore, especially when what’s served up is as uniformly lame as the three offerings in this new package from producer Regina Ziegler. Scarcely salacious and not remotely titillating artistically or sexually, these throwaways look limited to tube exposure in Europe and have no U.S. potential except perhaps on video.
Original six-pack featured one standout entry, by Indian helmer Mani Kaul, and decent ones by Bob Rafelson and Susan Seidelman to at least make the program worth a look. This time out, only name director is Nicolas Roeg, whose current “Full Body Massage,” airing on Showtime, is more intriguing, andsexually provocative, than his episode here. The general level of narrative inspiration is no better than the average student film.
Kicking things off is Cinzia TH Torrini’s thoroughly banal “Sweeties,” in which neglected, plump Italian housewife Stefania Sandrelli unsuccessfully tries to attract her husband until some magic sweets do the trick. Unfortunately, despite warnings from the psychic who dispensed them, she eats too many of them and soon shrinks and disappears, the victim of her sweet tooth. It’s all relentlessly silly, shot in the obvious, fruity manner of Italian sex farces of 25 years ago.
Roeg’s “Hotel Paradise” begins with Theresa Russell waking up handcuffed to a bed in a lavish suite after what looks to have been a kinky night with a man she doesn’t recognize. Once she turns the tables by handcuffing him and starts dressing for her wedding that day, the man, Vincent D’Onofrio, insists that last night was the greatest night of her life; she insists that she can’t remember a thing and resents his putting disturbing images into her head when she’s about to marry someone else.
The half-hour of argumentative banter, punctuated by brief glimpses of what the man says happened during their wild night, is annoyingly aggressive, with embryonic ideas about memory, persistence and persuasion remaining undeveloped. Characters never reveal any vulnerability beneath their brittle, pushy exteriors , so the schematic superstructure of Michael Allin’s script remains the most pronounced element of the episode.
Third vignette, Polish helmer Janusz Majewski’s “Devilish Education,” is an old-fashioned voyeur’s delight, designed exclusively to exhibit the abundant charms of young actress Renata Dancewicz. Voluptuous lass plays a naive Polish farm girl, apparently around the turn of the century, who becomes the subject of an itinerant artist during some sultry summer days in the pasture.
The fellow gets her to pose, determines to make a lady of her and, oh yes, takes it upon himself to introduce her to the pleasures of the flesh. It’s all very slight, although the final twist is poignant, revealing a lonely girl desperate to be taught about the mysteries of life and love. Dancewicz is admittedly easy on the eyes, but the way she is revealed disrobing, skinny-dipping and having sex creates the impression of a highfalutin Playboy video.
If the first “Erotic Tales” produced at least some worthwhile footage, this second batch has resulted in virtually none, meaning that any further attempts in the series should await better stories and more heavyweight talent.